Move to NASCAR
While he was successful in ASA competition, Kulwicki had his sights set on racing in NASCAR. In 1983, he attempted to participate in a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. However, his car was so far off the pace in practice that he elected not to proceed with qualifying. Kulwicki would make his first starts in NASCAR’s second-tier Busch Grand National Series in 1984, driving for team owner Ed Whitaker. In his first Busch Series start at the Milwaukee Mile, Kulwicki led 43 laps and finished 2nd. In four races total, he finished in the top 10 three times.
The following season, Kulwicki ran two more Busch Series races and made his debut in the Winston Cup Series, NASCAR’s highest level. He struck a deal to race team owner Bill Terry’s No. 32 Ford with sponsorship from Hardee’s. While Kulwicki successfully qualified for his first race at Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway in Virginia, he damaged his car during his second qualifying lap. The damage was severe enough that Terry considered withdrawing from the race. However, Kulwicki and the crew repaired the car and gave themselves a chance to start the event. He would finish 19th in a field of 30 cars.
Kulwicki made four more Winston Cup starts in 1985. His best finish was a 13th place result at Charlotte. At the end of the season, Kulwicki decided to take a gamble. After selling all of his ASA and short track equipment, he intended to move to the Carolinas and try his hand at NASCAR on a full-time basis. His plans to move were delayed when his truck caught on fire and burned up, forcing him to borrow another truck from a friend. Loading up his tools, furniture, and other belongings in a trailer, Kulwicki left Wisconsin behind to establish himself in the world of NASCAR.